Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
Once reserved for the obligatory standard meal of “liver and onions”, offal has taken the culinary world by storm. And for good reason…
Not only does offal – which includes organ meats, bones, trimmings and pretty much everything in between – provide rich tastes and unique textures to a wide variety of cuisines, it is also some of the most nutrient-dense food you could put on your plate.
Of course, for many people, the idea of “nose-to-tail” eating may be a bit off-putting. But today I’m going to show you five reasons why you should be eating these superfoods… plus six simple ways to make them delicious (or sneak them into your meals without a trace!).
Offal: The Disease-Fighting Nutritional “Supplement”
Nutrient-dense organ meats provide a stark contrast to the calorie-rich, nutrient-poor diets most Americans consume today. In fact, gram for gram, organs provide greater nutrient density than any other food we consume.
A study published in Horticultural Science illustrates why this is so important. The study found that the nutrient density of vegetables and fruits has declined by as much as 40% over the last 50 – 100 years. This means that even if you’re eating a whole-foods diet, free of processed foods, you’re still not consuming the nutrients our grandparents did.
And because nutrient deficiencies are a key factor in the onset of disease and age-related decline, it’s no surprise that the supplement market continues to grow. However, unlike synthetic vitamins and factory-created “fortified” foods, the nutrients in organ meats are present in their organic form alongside a matrix of synergistic compounds. This is the optimal way nutrients should be consumed for safety and the most efficient use by the body.
The nutrients in organ meats are also those most commonly lacking in modern diets and critical for disease prevention and healthy aging.
Five key Nutrients Concentrated in Organ Meats
1. Vitamin B12: This complex vitamin is vitally important for brain health, cancer prevention, heart health, mood, bone health and more. After the age of 60, the ability to absorb this nutrient declines, placing many people at risk for deficiency.
2. Selenium: An antioxidant micronutrient with numerous roles in immune, thyroid and prostate health, cancer prevention and more. Modern farming methods have depleted this nutrient in the soil, causing levels in the food supply to drop dramatically and leaving many deficient.
3. Choline: A vitamin-like compound essential for the health of cell membranes, nerves and neurotransmitters, brain health, heart health, liver health and cancer prevention (especially breast cancer). According to the Institute of Medicine, only 10 percent of Americans meet adequate choline intake levels: 425 mg/day for most women and 550 mg/day for men (and women who are breastfeeding).
4. Vitamin A: A fat-soluble group of compounds essential for vision, immune health, growth and development, gene expression, cancer prevention and more. Taken in isolated form (supplements), vitamin A can be toxic. Organ meats, specifically liver, provide the best natural source of this disease-fighting nutrient.
5. CoQ10: A fat-soluble antioxidant compound required for cellular energy production (ATP), heart health, brain health and more. (Note: While a recommended intake has not been established, you can see absolute amounts in the list below.)
Now take a look at how much you’ll get in these organ meats. The amounts represented are the absolute amounts per serving and how that amount compares on a percentage basis with the established RDA or RDI, assuming one has been established:
Lamb Kidney – 3 oz
Selenium – 186 mcg / 266%
Vitamin B12 – 67 mcg / 1,118%
Choline (data not available)
Beef Kidney – 3 oz
Selenium- 143 mcg / 204%
Vitamin B12 – 21 mcg / 353%
Choline – 436 mg
Chicken Liver – 1 oz
Vitamin A – 4,026 IU / 81%
Vitamin B12 – 5.9 mcg / 99%
Selenium – 24.7 mcg / 35%
Choline – 92 mg
Beef Liver – 1 oz
Vitamin A – 8,881 IU / 178%
Vitamin B12 – 19.8 mcg / 329%
Selenium – 10.1 mcg / 144%
Choline – 119 mg
CoQ10 – 1.1 mg
Lamb Liver – 1 oz
Vitamin A – 7,280 IU / 146%
Vitamin B12 – 24 mcg / 400%
Selenium – 32.5 mcg / 46%
Choline (data not available)
Beef Heart – 3 oz
Vitamin B12 – 9.2 mcg / 153%
Selenium – 33 mcg / 47%
Choline – 194 mg
CoQ10 – 96 mg
Lamb Sweetbreads – 3 oz
Vitamin B12 – 4.7 mcg / 78%
Selenium – 55 mcg / 79%
Choline (data not available)
As you can see, organ meats are a highly concentrated source of nutrition. It doesn’t take much to get major nutritional benefits!
How to Make Organ Meats Taste (Offaly) Good
If you’re serious about getting more of these superfoods in your diet, and preparing them in the best way, consider investing in the comprehensive cookbook by Fergus Henderson – The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.
To broaden your palette and optimize your nutrition starting today, here are six simple (and sneaky) tips for including organ meats effortlessly and enjoyably in your everyday meals:
1. Grind: Take frozen beef heart or chicken heart and carefully cut into chunks. Process using the grating blade on your food processor. Combine with grass-fed ground beef or bison for a nutrient-enhanced burger, meatloaf, chili, meatballs or Bolognese sauce.
2. Puree: Add grass-fed beef liver, bison liver or chicken liver to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Just like with heart, you can add pureed liver to meatloaf, meatballs, chili or Bolognese sauce. If you’re new to the strong flavor of liver (or don’t particularly enjoy it), start with 25% liver and work your way up. Mild-flavored livers – including chicken, lamb and bison – can be used at 50% or even in a 1:1 ratio with great-tasting results. To make liver easily accessible for later use, scrape pureed liver into an ice cube mold (silicone works well for easy removal) and freeze. Once frozen, store portions in a zip-top bag or (better yet) an air-tight food saver bag. Then simply defrost the amount you need and add it to your recipe for a superfood boost.
3. Fry: Everything tastes better fried. And when you fry the healthy way – using nutrient-rich, heat-stable tallow or duck fat – you’ll get rich, delicious flavor, and you’ll increase your absorption of lipid-soluble vitamin A, to boot. Simply dredge ½ inch pieces of liver (soaked and patted dry) or lamb sweetbreads in a flour mixture (try a combination of arrowroot and coconut flour for a grain-free crispy coating). Then fry in a heavy-bottomed skillet with ¼ inch of healthy fat until golden, about two minutes. Flip and cook another two minutes, just until cooked through.
4. Marinate: While texture can be more of a challenge with organ meats, flavor can be greatly enhanced by marinating. Try Thai flavors (coconut aminos, fish sauce and ginger), Mediterranean (lemon, garlic and olive oil) or even Indian or Middle-Eastern.
5. Soak: To make the taste of liver or kidney less pronounced, soak in 1 cup of coconut milk with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for a few hours or overnight. If you are liver-averse, choosing mild-flavored liver (bison, lamb or chicken) and soaking can make a big difference in the palatability.
6. Grill: As a muscle meat, heart can be grilled very much like your favorite lean cut of meat. Because it is very lean, be careful to not overcook. Liver can also be delicious when grilled and lends itself to a variety of flavorful marinades.
If you have tried eating organ meats before with no luck: Take heart. Your taste buds, like all of the other cells in your body – are constantly regenerating. This means you can actually acquire a taste for organ meats, and may even find that over time you begin to crave their unique flavors.
Be adventurous and don’t be afraid to experiment! By adding a variety of organ meats to your culinary repertoire you’ll boost your intake of health-promoting nutrients the same way our ancestors did – with traditional superfoods!
Read more articles by Kelley Herring here.
Ed Note: Need some kitchen inspiration? Grab Kelley’s free guide – Instant Pot Keto Dinners – made exclusively with Paleo-and-Keto ingredients, for quick and delicious meals that taste just as good – of not better – than your restaurant favorites. Get your free guide here.
1. Davis, D. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is The Evidence? Hort Science Vol 44 (1) 2009
2. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center. Vitamin B12. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminB12/
3. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center. Choline. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/choline/
4. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center. Vitamin A. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminA/
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